The Boys of Summer

by Roger Kahn

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 387

The Boys of Summer is a memoir whose characters are all real people and institutions. In addition to the author himself during his years as a young sportswriter, these characters include the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team as a whole and as individuals, and the borough of Brooklyn.

Much of the book is a "Where are they now?" recap of the team's stars from the 1940s and 1950s before the team was whisked away to Los Angeles.

The Dodgers underscored the character of Brooklyn, one of the five boroughs that make up New York City. In many ways, Brooklyn is the polar opposite of Manhattan, New York's glittering crown jewel. Historically, Brooklyn was home to immigrant and first-generation families, particularly Jews and Italians, and African Americans who left the Jim Crow South.

Going to Ebbets Field to see a Dodgers game brought Brooklynites together outside the workplace. Without the Dodgers, they probably would never have never had much desire or opportunity to socialize, even if only over a common interest. The Dodgers helped Brooklyn embody the real "mixing bowl" metaphor that once characterized the US itself.

Jackie Robinson is a major, and perhaps the central, character in The Boys of Summer. The first African American to play on a Major League Baseball team, he shared Brooklynites' hardworking ethic. It sounds like a cliché, but Robinson really did reflect the borough's character and reputation as a tough but honorable guy. The Dodgers' presence helped establish Brooklyn as the East Coast's answer to the western cowboy.

Robinson is shown not only as a racial groundbreaker but as one of the stars that helped lead Brooklyn to a World Series championship in 1955. The other boys of summer include many Hall of Fame players, some of whom brought colorful nicknames that resonated with their fans and those who follow baseball history:

  • Pee Wee Reese
  • Preacher Roe
  • Duke Snider
  • Roy Campanella
  • Gil Hodges
  • Joe Black
  • Leo Durocher, who managed the Dodgers the year Robinson joined the team

Campanella and Black were African Americans who joined the team after Robinson and played alongside him. Black was the first African American pitcher to win a World Series game.

Walter O'Malley, who became the team's principal owner in 1950, is the book's real-life villain for his decision to move the Dodgers to Los Angeles seven years later.

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